CHCCW treats patients while fighting to limit COVID-19 spread

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CASPER, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - When patients enter Community Health Centers of Central Wyoming’s (CHCCW) doors, they are greeted by staff wearing masks who ask them about potential COVID-19 symptoms. This is one of several steps CHCCW is taking to prevent COVID-19 from spreading in its facility.

An unopened personal protective equipment packet at Community Health Centers of Central Wyoming in Casper, Wyo. on Thursday, March 26, 2020.

If a patient is exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, staff give the person a mask. Medical staff take protective measures, including wearing personal protective equipment.

“We have a gown on, a mask, gloves, goggles,” said CHCCW Physician Assistant Kyle Wilkes. “We don’t know who’s walking through our doors.”

CHCCW CEO Carl Harris said staff are trying to conserve personal protective equipment because of a nationwide shortage due to COVID-19, but he encourages staff to use it when they feel the need.

“We use it only when it’s absolutely necessary. And we tell our staff, ‘Air on the side of your safety if you’re getting to the point where you’re concerned about PPE. Don your PPE and take care of our patients,’” Harris said.

Despite the risks, staff continue showing up to work and caring for some of their most vulnerable neighbors.

“They understand the mission of who we are and what we do. We’re here as a community safety net. We are the one that sometimes is that last resources for a patient who has no resources,” Harris said.

“I’ll be honest, I enjoyed it more before all this started because I didn’t have to do all the extra precautions and was seeing more of a variety of things but I definitely take pride in caring for people and trying to help them because honestly that’s what this all comes down to,” Wilkes said.

Staff ask patients to call ahead so they can triage them over the phone.

Harris said CHCCW does have a limited number of COVID-19 tests but will only use them when absolutely necessary.

CHCCW’s dental clinic is only treating emergent cases.

Dental staff is trying to limit potential COVID-19 exposure following the recommendations from the American Dental Association.

“We are accepting anyone that is in pain, has excessive bleeding, has swelling, has infection or has had trauma,” CHCCW dental hygienist Keshia Brinkerhoff said.

Patients must call the clinic before being seen.

Brinkerhoff said the clinic’s accepting new patients whose normal dentist’s office is closed due to COVID-19.

CHCCW has locations in Natrona and Fremont Counties.